Mad, Bad, and Dangerous in Plaid

By: Suzanne Enoch

“Certainly, Lord Gray,” Winnie said cheerfully, rising. “Jane, don’t let Lord Samston begin another of his stories until I return.” She flashed a grin at the yellow-haired man by the window.

“I wouldn’t dream of it, Lady Rowena,” he drawled, sketching a bow that likely would have looked fancy even in a royal court.

Lachlan followed Winnie into the sunroom at the end of the hallway. A handful of wooden benches and chairs lay scattered amid potted roses and lilies—plants too delicate for the changeable Highlands weather. “That lot’s like the monkeys in a menagerie,” he commented with a loose smile. “All chattering at once and being cozy with the top brute in the herd.”

“And who is the top brute, do you think?” Winnie strolled over to one of the large, south-facing windows.

“That Lord Samston. Nobody talks when he does.”

“Very observant of you,” she returned, leaning her spine against the window and folding her arms over her chest. “But considering that he was introduced to you as the Earl of Samston, you already knew that.”

“Nae,” Lachlan returned, though he knew he should likely be getting to the point of this conversation and not provoking Winnie. He’d teased with her for her entire life, though, and unlike those prissy lads down the hall, he had no fear of her temper. “It’s nae aboot rank. Nae completely. Samston’s the fellow to watch.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” She lifted a graceful eyebrow. “Thankfully he’s very easy on the eyes.”

“Him? He’s too shiny.”

Winnie tilted her head. “I’m a bit confused, Lachlan. Which word did you want with me? To tell me that Lord Samston is powerful, or that he’s shiny?”

“Neither. And I still dunnae why ye feel the need to talk like a Sassenach,” he said, frowning. “Ye can fool whoever ye like in London, but ye’re home now.”

She turned her back on him, ostensibly to gaze out at the sharp-peaked mountains around them. “Is that what this is about, then? You don’t like the way I talk? Because that’s really none of your business.”

“I dunnae suppose it is. And nae, that’s nae the word I wanted, either.”

“Then tell me what you want, Lord Gray, so I can return to my duties as hostess.”

Lachlan frowned at the back of her head and her gracefully coiled black hair. A few months ago Winnie MacLawry would have gone to great efforts to prevent him from leaving a conversation. Once she’d even pretended to sprain her ankle so he would carry her from Loch Shinaig back to the house. He’d told Donald the stableboy to do it, and she’d abruptly recovered.

But that was neither here nor there. And the sooner he could make his intentions—or lack thereof—clear, the sooner he could stop worrying that he would be trapped into something simply because Ranulf couldn’t refuse his sister anything she truly wanted.

He took a breath. “Face me, will ye?”

Her shoulders rose and fell, and she turned around again. “This sounds serious,” she mused, her expression still a bit annoyed. With him—which was unusual in itself.

“I ken that fer a long time ye’ve had yer heart set on … on things being a particular way, lass, and I ken that I was one of the reasons ye scampered doon to London—so I’d see ye as a lady rather than a wee girl.”

“You n—”

“But what ye do doesnae matter, Winnie,” he continued over her interruption. “I’ll always see ye as ye are, and that’s the bairn with the scraped knees I taught to fish. What I mean to say is, I’ll nae—never—marry ye, Winnie, so whatever ye have planned in that head of yers, dunnae trouble yerself. Have yer fun with yer friends, help Lady Charlotte with her Highlands wedding, but dunnae expect anything to come of us. Do ye understand?”

For a long moment she gazed at him while he waited for her pretty blue eyes to overflow with tears. Bear would likely attempt to bloody him, but Ranulf had practically ordered him to do this. It wasn’t as if he wanted to see her cry.

Winnie smiled. Then a chuckle burst from her chest. “Oh, dear,” she managed.

That did not sound like heartbreak. Lachlan frowned before he could remember that that was a good thing. “What’s so damned amusing?”

“You looked so serious. I’m so sorry,” she returned. “Poor Lachlan. You must’ve been terrified every time you saw me appear.”

“Nae. I wasnae terrified. And I’m nae afraid of ye now. I just want ye to ken that there’ll be no marriage between us.”

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